UKACHUKWU V ORU-EAST LOCAL GOVERNMENT

UKACHUKWU V ORU-EAST LOCAL GOVERNMENT


IN THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT OF NIGERIA

IN THE OWERRI JUDICIAL DIVISION

HOLDEN AT OWERRI

ON THE 2ND DAY OF DECEMBER, 2015


SUIT NO: NICN/OW/09/2014

CITATION: NIC (2015) 12 LLER 4

CORAM:
HON. JUSTICE O. Y. ANUWE


BETWEEN

MRS MARCELLINA O. UKACHUKWU.

(CLAIMANTS)

AND

ORU-EAST LOCAL GOVERNMENT

RESPONDENTS


REPRESENTATION
P. C. Obinatu for the Claimant

K. K. Ezeribe for the Defendant

PRONOUNCEMENTS

A. LABOUR LAW

  1. Contract of Employment–When does a relationship of master and servant come into existence?

In a contract of employment, once an offer of employment is made by an employer and the employee accepts the offer, whether in writing or by commencement of work, a contract of service has come into being. A contract of employment means any agreement whether oral or in writing, whether express or implied, whereby one person agrees to employ another as a worker and that other person agrees to serve the employer as a worker. See SCC LTD vs. AFROPAK NIG LTD (2008) All FWLR (Pt. 426) 1827 at 1838; IYERE vs. BENDEL FEEDS AND FLOUR MILLS LTD (2009) All FWLR (Pt. 453) 1217 at 1233. READ IN CONTEXT

2. Termination of Employment–Is there any special procedure for termination of employment in a master and servant relationship?

In a master and servant employment, termination of the employment can be made orally, in writing or by conduct. See the Supreme Court decision in IFETA vs. SHELL (2006) All FWLR (Pt. 314) 305 at 334. READ IN CONTEXT

B. PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
3. Pleadings–Effect of failure to file a reply to new averments in the statement of defence

The claimant did not file a reply to the statement of defence. Because of the nature of these averments in the statement of defence, which is not covered in the claimant’s pleading, the claimant, as a matter of general practice, is expected to file a reply to challenge the averments. See EGESIMBA vs. ONUZURUIKE [2002] 15 NWLR (Pt. 791) 466; BAKARE vs. IBRAHIM [1973] 6 S.C 205. Although failure to file a reply does not mean that the claimant has admitted the facts in the defendant’s defence, but non-filing of a reply has left the facts uncontroverted. Therefore, the above facts pleaded by defendant have not been challenged or controverted by the claimant. It is also trite that where a party fails to challenge or controvert a piece of evidence or fact, such evidence or fact would be accepted and upheld by the court. See ASAFA FOODS FACTORY LTD vs. ALRAINE NIG. LTD (2002) FWLR (Pt. 125) 775. READ IN CONTEXT

JUDGEMENT

The Claimant instituted this action vide a general form of complaint filed on the 22nd day of January 2014, claiming the following reliefs against the defendant:

(a) A declaration of the Honorable Court that Claimant’s contract of employment with Defendant is still valid and subsisting same having not been legally terminated by Defendant.

(b) A declaration of the Honorable Court that the termination of further salary payments to Claimant and the subsequent removal of her name from the payment vouchers by Defendant without according her right of audience are unlawful and grievously violates her fundamental right to fair hearing.

(c) An Order of this Honorable Court, reinstating Claimant’s name in the defendant’s payment vouchers.

(d) An Order of this Honorable Court directing the Defendants to pay Claimant forthwith, the sum of N1,036,000.00 (One Million and Thirty-Six Thousand Naira) being accumulated arrears of salaries from April 2008 to January 2014.

(e) An Order of this Court directing the Defendant to pay to the claimant the sum of N1,000.000.00 (One Million Naira) compensation for unlawful termination of her salaries payment.

(f) Perpetual Injunction restraining the defendant either by themselves or by their agents, or proxies or representatives from further termination of the salaries payment to the Claimant.

The Defendant was duly served with the originating processes on the 19th day of February 2014. The Claimant on the 2nd day of May 2014 filed an application for summary judgment, the defendant having not filed any appearance or pleadings despite service of processes and hearing notices on the defendant. The said application for summary judgment was however dismissed by a ruling of this court delivered on the 23rd day of September 2014, wherein the

court ordered that the case should proceed to hearing.

The Claimant opened her case on the 3rd day of November 2014 and she testified for herself as CW1. The court adjourned to 3rd December 2014 for continuation of hearing. This was to enable the defence cross-examine the Claimant. The court ordered hearing notice to issue to the defence.

On the 11th day of February 2015, the defendant was represented by one Obodozie Edwin, a litigation officer in the defendant. Counsel for the Claimant sought an order of court to foreclose the defendant from cross-examining the Claimant. This the court refused in the interest of justice, and granted another adjournment while awarding N20,000.00 (Twenty Thousand Naira) cost in favour of the Claimant.

K. K. Ezeribe of counsel to the defendant appeared in court on the 17th day of February 2015 and announced appearance for the defendant. The case had been scheduled for cross-examination of CW1, but counsel for the defence asked for time to regularize his appearance. This the court granted, and again adjourned to 23rd day of February, on which day counsel for the defence was to cross-examine the Claimant. On 23rd day of February, the court observed from the file that the defendant had still not filed any processes. For the avoidance of doubt, the Court enquired from counsel for the defence Mr. K. K. Ezeribe if he had filed any processes, to which counsel answered in the negative, thus confirming that he was yet to file any defence processes. At this point, upon the application of Counsel for the Claimant, the court foreclosed the defence from cross-examining the Claimant. The case was then adjourned for defence.

Counsel for the defendant filed a memorandum of appearance, a statement of defence, written statement on oath, list of witnesses, list of documents and copies of documents to be relied upon; vide a motion for extension of time on the 16th day of March 2015. These were deemed as duly filed and served on the same day 16th March 2015. The matter was then adjourned for defence. Mr. Obodozie Edwin testified for the defendant as DW1, and the defendant closed his case on the 9th day of June 2015. Parties were then ordered to file their Final Written Addresses in compliance with the rules of this court.

The Claimant’s final address was filed on the 28th day of September 2015 while the defendant filed its address on the 29th day of September 2015 vide a motion for extension of time filed on the 6th day of October 2015. Both addresses were deemed as properly filed and served on the 6th day of October 2015 after which parties adopted their respective written addresses.

In the claimant’s final address filed on the 28th day of September 2015, counsel raised two issues for determination, thus:

  1. Whether claimant had made out a case on the preponderance of evidence to entitle her to the reliefs sought from the honorable court.
  2. Whether the documents defendant tendered in evidence admitted and marked respectively, Exhibits K, L, M, N and O are admissible in support of its case.

It is counsel’s submission in respect of issue one, that the claimant had proved her case on the preponderance of evidence. He stated that the defendant deliberately refused to cross-examine the claimant on her evidence-in-chief before the court despite the fact that the defendant was given several opportunities to so do. According to Counsel, the Claimant testified in chief as CW1 on 3/11/2014. The matter was adjourned respectively to 3/12/2014, 19/1/2015, 11/2/2015, 17/2/2015 and 23/2/2015 for the defendant to cross-examine the PW1. On 17/2/2015 Defendant’s Counsel asked for adjournment to regularize his appearance. The matter was adjourned at his instance to 23/2/2015 for cross-examination of CW1. On 23/2/2015, the Defendant’s lawyer was in court but unwilling to cross-examine CW1, wherefore the Defendant was foreclosed from cross-examining CW1. Counsel submitted that evidence unchallenged or not contradicted by the opposing party, who had opportunity to challenge or controvert same should be believed, accepted and upheld by the court. He relied on the cases of:

i. Asafa Foods Factory Ltd. vs. Alranine Nig. Ltd. & Anor. (2002) FWLR (Pt. 125) 756 @ 775-6 SC

ii. Niger Construction Ltd. vs. Okugbemi (1987) 4 NWLR (Pt. 676) @ 787.

iii. Ogun vs. Chief Asemah & Ors. (2002) FWLR (Pt. 128) 1328 @ 1349.

Furthermore, it is the submission of Counsel that the statement of defence does not in the introductory paragraph contain any general traverse of Claimant’s statement of facts. The Defendant did not specifically traverse paragraphs 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30 of Claimant’s statement of facts. It is trite law that a fact or facts are

deemed admitted if they are not denied specifically or by implication by the Defendant in his statement of defence.

Therefore those facts need no further proof by the Claimant. See Section 123 of the Evidence Act, 2011.

See also Abibatu Folami vs. Flora Cole (1986) 2. C.A. (Pt. ii) 353 and Din vs. African Newspapers Ltd. (1990) 3 NWLR (Pt. 139) 392 @ 408.

It is the contention of counsel that the testimony of DW1 in paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of his written deposition on oath and during his cross examination; show that DW1 does not have absolutely any fact pertaining to the entire workers of the Defendant. He did not play any role at all in the employment and posting of the Claimant. Therefore, the testimonies of DW1 and exhibits are fabricated, adduced to mislead court. Also, DW1 under cross-examination admitted the facts deposed in paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of Claimant’s written deposition on oath (evidence on oath as PW1). Thus, these admitted facts need no further proof. See Section 123 of the Evidence Act, 2011.

Again, counsel submitted that when the evidence of DW1 supports the case of the Claimant the court is enjoined to enter judgment for Claimant. This is owing to the fact that the requirement of discharging onus of proof abates where a party against whom a fact is sought to be proved admits it. See Ibadan LG properties Ltd. & Ors vs. Mr. Okunade (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 271) 154 @ 164, 168. DW1 in his evidence-in-chief stated in paragraph 5 of his written deposition as follows:

“That what qualifies a person as a staff of the Local Government is not the offer of Appointment letter, but the Notification of Appointment and subsequently, Confirmation of Appointment. However, during cross-examination, DW1 stated as follows:

“An applicant who accepts a letter of offer becomes a staff only after he/she is issued a notification of appointment. When DW1 was confronted with his Exhibit M and shown by Claimant Counsel that Notification of Appointment is a mere attachment to the letter of Offer of Appointment setting out the salary scale and increment date of an employee (a mere condition of service), DW1 admitted these facts, that the notification of appointment is an ancillary document (a mere condition of service) to the letter of Offer of Appointment showing the entry point, salary scale and increment date. Counsel went further that DW1 also admitted that non-confirmation of the appointment of an employee does not terminate his/her employment. Rather it will affect his/her promotions. This admission was against his evidence in paragraph 5 of his deposition under review. Counsel submitted that the letter of Notification of Appointment goes alongside letter of Offer of Appointment. The letter of notification of appointment is issued on the acceptance of an offer of appointment by an applicant. The letter of notification of appointment is a simplified condition of service, its non-issuance or production does not terminate an appointment/employment. More so, CW1 stated in evidence that the officials of the Defendant took these documents away from her when she went for the purported promotional screening exercise at the Defendant’s office. Counsel referred the court to Exhibits L & M of the Defendants which were issued same date. The letter of appointment/employment given to the claimant constitutes a valid contract between the parties to the instant suit. The letter of notification of appointment/employment, as a condition of service, can only constitute part of the contract of employment and legal right or claim can only be formulated upon the conditions pursuant to the letter of employment. See: E. Sapara vs. University College Hospital Board of Management. (1988) 7 SC (Pt. 146) 959 @ 990 SC.

Counsel urged the court to examine Exhibit 0 purported to be the posting letter of the authentic staff employed on 2nd April, 2007. The said Exhibit 0 dated 19/7/2007 was made during the tenure of an unnamed Transition Committee Chairman of the Defendant. The employment and posting of claimant and others was carried out during the tenure of an elected Executive Chairman of Defendant named Chief (Dr.) Emma Ogbenta. He submitted that by Exhibit 0, the reason for withdrawing further salary payment, for the first time, of Claimant by the Defendant was because she was employed together with her daughter by the Defendant. Counsel submitted that it is trite law that a document speaks for itself. More so, it is trite law that documentary evidence does not lie except where the document is tampered with; and where documentary evidence is not contradicted, the court is entitled to rely on it.

See the following cases of:

i. Consolidated Breweries Plc & Anor vs. Aisowieren (2002) FWLR (Pt. 116) 959 @ 989. 1.

ii. Nwanosike vs. John Holt Plc (2006) All FWLR (Pt. 301) 1809 @1841.

iii. First African Trust Bank Ltd vs. Partnership Investment Company Ltd. (2004) FWLR (Pt. 192) 167 @ 198.

Counsel submitted that the defendant’s failure to produce the comprehensive list of the purported staff whose appointment employment letters of 2006 were withdrawn, or the notice issued by the Defendant which he claimed was pasted on the Defendant’s notice board to establish the truth of his claims is an indication that these purported documents do not exist. It is the opinion of counsel that there was no other recruitment in 2nd April 2007 as claimed by Defendant. Thus, the purported Okechukwu, Ezeocha Festus whose purported letter of Offer of Appointment dated 12/3/2007; and letter of Notification of Appointment dated 12/3/2007, Exhibits L and M and Confirmation of Appointment dated 16/4/2007, does not exist, otherwise the Defendant would have called him as a witness in this matter.

Also, counsel urged the court to study the signatures on Exhibits B, L, and M. DW1 admitted in evidence under cross examination that one Nze Uzoukwu Chibeneme signed Exhibit B and L. He submitted that the signatures in Exhibits L and Exhibit M are different from the signature in Exhibit B. Therefore, Exhibits L and M were never made or signed (executed) by Nze Uzoukwu Chibeneme. This submission of counsel is anchored on Section 108 (1) of the Evidence Act, 2011 that empowers a trial judge to compare signatures. The instant section reads thus:

“In order to ascertain that a signature, writing, seal or finger impression is that of the person by whom it purports to have been written or made, any signature, writing, seal or finger impression admitted or proved to the satisfaction of the court to have been written or made by that person may be compared with the one which is to be proved although that signature, writing, seal or finger impression has not been produced or proved for any other purpose.” See also 1. Mr. Akalonu vs. Mr. Omokaro (2003) FWLR (Pt. 175) 493 @ 502-3.

  1. Alhaji Zein vs. Alhaji Geidam (2004) All FWLR (Pt. 237) 457 @482-3.

Furthermore, counsel contended that the defendant’s argument that Claimant was a casual worker is baseless. This is owing to the fact that the Imo State Civil Service Salary Structure brought in by Defendant and admitted under protest as Exhibit K is actually a Public Notice of the 121/2 % Basic Salary Increment for Imo State Public Service dated 22/1/2007. Exhibit K was a salary adjustment based on a new minimum wage of N6, 500.00 (Six Thousand and Five Hundred Naira) adjusted based on the 121/2 % increment. Counsel submitted that in view of the foregoing the evidence of PW1 that she was paid N7,000.00 (Seven Thousand Naira) as monthly salary at the time of her employment stands uncontroverted. It is common practice for a civil or public servant who receives a monthly salary of the sum of N7,793.95 kobo to usually state that he/she receives the sum of N7,000.00 and urged the court to so hold.

Counsel submitted that this admission by DW1 as reflected in Exhibit M establishes the fact in support of the evidence of PW1 that her salary was reviewed upwards/increased to N10, 000.00 and N12, 000.00 from N7, 000.00 within three months of her employment. More so, Exhibit K buttresses this fact. The remunerations/emoluments of civil/public servants were increased by 121/2 % on the N6,500.00 benchmark which took effect on 1st January, 2007. More so, DW1 was transferred out of the Defendant and only reposted to the Defendant Local Government in 2013. Counsel contended that DW1 cannot competently testify of what transpired in the Defendant when he was no longer in the employment of Defendant. DW1’s testimony on the period covering after 2007 till 2013 was mere hearsay and inadmissible in evidence. DW1 never informed the court that his allegation that Claimant’s name was not in the payment voucher of the Defendant, was information he obtained from any of the named foregoing officials of the finance department/unit of the Defendant. Counsel submitted that hearsay evidence is one which does not derive its value solely from the credit given to the witness himself but which rests also in part, on the veracity and competence of some other person. Thus, hearsay evidence lacks probative value. See:

  1. Suntan & Anor vs. Turku (2003) FWLR (Pt. 157) 1128 @ 1144-5.
  2. Remn Oil Services Ltd vs. Endwell Trading Co. Ltd (2003) FWLR (Pt. 152) 98 @ 112.
  3. Section 1 (b) of Evidence Act, 2011.

The Claimant in her testimony stated that after her name was removed in the payroll of April 2007. Her name was returned to the payroll voucher after Exhibit 0 was received by the then Chairman of Defendant, Chief Dr. Emma Ogbenta; and she collected salaries till March 2008 when her name was again removed from the payroll voucher. It is the removal of Claimant’s name this second time in March 2008 that resulted in the institution of the present suit. The Defendant did not tender any written response to that letter to show that it was not complied with. DW1 did not work in the office of the Chairman as at the time of the letter. It is counsel’s submission that after the executive chairman of the Defendant received Exhibit 0, the Claimant continued to receive her salaries until March 2008 when her salaries were stopped again. The appointment of DW1 as a litigation officer by the Defendant only entitles him to represent the

Defendant in law courts and other tribunals and not necessarily to stand in as a witness for the Defendant except in matters of which he has personal knowledge as an officer of the Defendant. DW1 testified that Exhibit 0 was the posting letter of the applicants who were successful in the 2nd April 2007 authentic appointment. Exhibit 0 was made and signed by DW1 himself yet the original copy of that document not produced in court or certified by the relevant authority. He claimed that the claimant is not entitled to any salary and or relief. This evidence is inconsistent with Exhibits L and M which Defendant tendered in evidence to prove that fact. Counsel therefore submitted that it follows that Exhibit 0 can never be a letter of posting of the purported authentic applicants who were purportedly successful in the 2nd April 2007 appointment.

It is counsel’s argument that Exhibit 0 is a forged document; it was made for the purposes of this suit. More importantly is counsel’s stance that Exhibit 0 does not relate to the issue before this court and therefore is irrelevant to the proceedings. Exhibits L and M tied to Exhibit 0 were both made on 12th March 2007. They were not made on 2nd April 2007 as claimed by the Defendant. Counsel urged the court to so hold. Exhibits A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I and J all point to the uncontroverted fact that Claimant was employed by the Defendant in 2006 and has been receiving salaries up to April 2007 when her salary payment was first stopped; and when Exhibit D was made and sent to the Executive Chairman of the Defendant, the Claimant continued to receive her salaries until March 2008 when her salary was stopped for the second time. The employment of Claimant by the Defendant is a statutory one. Thus an employment with statutory flavour gives an employee a special status over and above an ordinary master-servant relationship. This applies where the appointment and termination of an employee is regulated by statute.

See: 1. Sections 65, 142, 143, 144, 146, 147, 148 and 149 of the Imo State Local Government Administrative Law, No.

15, 2000 as amended.

  1. Bamgboye vs. University of lIorin (2001) FWLR (Pt. 48) 136 @ 1382.
  2. Ziideeh vs. Rivers State Civil Service Commission (2007) All FWLR (Pt. 354) 243 @ 259-9 SC.

It is counsel’s further submission that a pensionable employment in the public service carries with it a presumption that an employee is not to be terminated or otherwise disciplined except in cases of proven misconduct. See: Igwilo vs. C.B.N (2000) FWLR (Pt. 18) 265 @ 300 – 301. More so, an employee holding a public office in entitled to be heard before his appointment/salaries payment is terminated. See: C.B.N vs. Ismaila Jidda (2001) FWLR (Pt. 47) 1065 @ 1081. Where the employment of an employee with statutory flavour and pensionable status is terminated albeit by implication or stoppage of salaries payment; the proper order to make is that of reinstatement because the claim of the Claimant for reinstatement is based on rights accruing to her from the contract of employment between the parties.

With respect to the second issue, counsel channeled his argument on the documents one by one. Counsel’s objection to Exhibit K “Imo State Civil Service Salary Structure” is based on the grounds that the document was not pleaded in the Defendant’s Statement of Defence. The Defendant pleaded in paragraph 7 of his statement of Defence the “Imo State Civil Service Salary Structure”, while the document sought to be tendered and admitted was the “121/2 % Basic Salary Increase for Imo State Public Service.” Counsel submitted that where a document is not pleaded by a party to a dispute, such document would not be admitted in evidence or acted upon. See

Allied Bank vs. Akubueze (1997) 6 NWLR (Pt. 509) 374. It therefore follows that Exhibit K is not relevant to the suit. It is trite law that what determines admissibility is relevancy. Exhibit K not been relevant to this suit is therefore inadmissible in evidence.

See: 1. Section 1 (a) of the Evidence Act, 2011

  1. Torti vs. Ukpabi & Co. (1984) 1 SC 370 See also:

i. Dr. Mrs. Obayan vs. University of lIorin & Ors. (2006) All FWLR (Pt.299) 1374 @ 1 2

ii. Aji vs. Chad Basin Development Authority & Ors. (2004) All FWLR (Pt. 237) 424 @ 445.

iii. Section 142 (1) (b) of the Imo State Local Government Administration Law No. 15, 2000 (as amended).

Counsel urged the court to resolve this issue in favour of the Claimant; having proved her case on the preponderance of evidence. DW1 was not the maker of Exhibit K. Exhibit K was made by one B.U. Onwu the Head of Service, B.U. Onwu was not called to tender Exhibit K. The Defendant did not lay foundation to excuse its failure to call B.U. Onwu to tender the Exhibit. It is trite law as provided by Section 83 (1) of the Evidence Act, 2011 that the maker of a document is the

proper person to tender it in evidence. This is to afford the adverse party the opportunity to cross examine the maker on the contents of the document. Where a person outside the maker tenders a document (as in the instant case) the court should not attach probative value to it. See Chief Awuse vs. Dr. Odili & Ors. (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 261) 248 @ 321. Counsel submitted that Exhibit K is a public document. The defendant tendered a photocopy of Exhibit K. The defendant did not lay any foundation or state any reasons for not tendering the original copy of Exhibit K or a certified true copy of it before the court. It is trite law that photocopies of public documents are inadmissible in law: See the case of: Alhaji Matori vs. Alhaji Bauchi & Ors. (2004) All FWLR (Pt. 197) 1010 @ 1057

Exhibit K is a public document as classified under Section 192 of the Evidence Act 2011. It must by virtue of Section 104 of the Evidence Act, 2011 be certified before a secondary evidence of it can be produced. See Umogbai & Ors. vs. Pa Aiyemhoba & Ors. (2002) FWLR (Pt.132) 192 @ 198

In view of the foregoing, Counsel submitted finally that DW1 did not state in evidence how he obtained Exhibit K. He therefore urged the court to expunge Exhibit K from its record.

Regarding Exhibits L, M and N which are purported letters of offer of appointment, notification of appointment and confirmation of appointment of one Okechukwu are not relevant to the suit before this court. Exhibits L, M, and N are documents belonging to a person who is not a party to this suit. He was also not called as a witness. Counsel submitted that relevancy governs admissibility of a document in a suit. See Section 1(a) Evidence Act, 2011, Torti vs. Ukpabi & Co. (Supra).

Also, Exhibits L, M and N are photocopies; the Defendant did not lay any foundation as to the whereabouts of the original copies of Exhibits L, M and N. It is trite law that secondary evidence (photocopies) requires foundation before it can be admitted in evidence and probative value attached to it. See:

  1. Section 88 Evidence Act, 2011.
  2. AG Leventis Nig. Plc vs. Chief Akpu (2002) FWLR (Pt. 121) 1885 @ 1902.

For secondary evidence of a document to be admitted in evidence, the conditions set out in Section 89 of the Evidence Act must be fulfilled to the satisfaction of the court. See: A. C. B. Ltd vs. Shodehinde Bros. Nig. Ltd. (1980) 10 C.A. It is also trite law that the admission in evidence of secondary evidence without proof of loss or destruction of the original is wrongful under Section 88, Evidence Act, 2011. See: Chief Ijasan & Anor vs. Olaposi & Anor. (1982) C.A 2. Counsel submitted that where a document is admitted in evidence without first satisfying the conditions laid down in Section 89, Evidence Act, 2011, the court should attach no weight to it, because it lacks probative value. See: A. G. Oyo State vs. Fairlakes (1989)5 NWLR (Pt. 121) 255; (1988)12 SC (PL i) 1 @ 15. Counsel urged the court to discountenance Exhibits L, M and N as they lack probative value and expunge them from the records.

It is counsel’s argument that Exhibit 0 is not relevant to the instant suit and so is inadmissible in evidence. It is trite law that a document that is irrelevant to a suit is inadmissible in evidence.

Also, Exhibit 0 is a photocopy and as such is secondary evidence. Defendant did not lay any foundation as to the whereabouts of the original copy of Exhibit O. It is trite law that

secondary evidence (photocopy) requires the laying of foundation before it can be admitted in evidence and probative value attached to it. Counsel urged the court to discountenance Exhibit 0 as it lacks probative value; and expunge it from the records. Exhibit K is a public document. The Defendant only tendered a photocopy of Exhibit K. Defendant did not lay any foundation or state any reasons for not tendering the original copy of Exhibit K or a certified true copy of it before the court. It is trite law that photocopies of public documents are inadmissible in law. See: Alhaji Matori vs. Alhaji Bauchi & Ors. (2004) All FWLR (Pt. 197) 1010 @ 1057; and Section 104 of the Evidence Act, 2011. Counsel submitted further that Exhibit 0 by its nature is a public document as classified under Section 192 Evidence Act, 2011 must by virtue of Section 104 Evidence Act, 2011 be certified before a secondary evidence of it can be produced. See Pa Umogbai & Ors. vs. Pa Aiyemhoba & Ors. (2002) FWLR (Pt. 132) 192 @ 198. In view of the foregoing therefore, counsel urged the court to resolve this issue in favour of the Claimant. In conclusion, counsel submitted that Claimant has proved her case on preponderance of evidence and Exhibits K, L, M, N and O are documents which are both irrelevant and inadmissible both in evidence and in law.

In the defendant’s counsel final written address filed on the 29th day of September 2015, the Defendant’s counsel raised one issue for determination, which is:

“Whether the Claimant was a staff or a casual worker”

In arguing this sole issue, counsel submitted that from the evidence from both parties, it was obvious that the Claimant was never a staff of the Defendant. In the first place, the Claimant filed this suit exhibiting only an Offer of appointment Letter. That alone does not make one a staff. She did not exhibit the Notification of Appointment Letter and the Confirmation of Appointment Letter and both documents not pleaded in her statement of facts and disposition on oath. The Offer of Appointment Letter alone does not qualify one a staff or employee in any government department, for it is only the document that kick starts the employment procedure. It must be followed up with the Notification of Appointment and subsequently, the Confirmation of Appointment. According to counsel for the defendant, DWl led evidence to this effect; He therefore urged the court to so hold.

Again, counsel stated the salary stated by the Claimant that she was paid by the Defendant confirmed the fact that she was a mere casual worker. The N7000.00, N10, 000.00 and N12, 000.00 she claimed was paid to her, also confirms the fact that she was a causal worker as no staff earns a salary without some fractions of Naira and Kobo.

More so, it is counsel’s opinion that the Claimant lied when she told the Court in her pleadings and dispositions that at the time of her employment, she was placed on Grade Level 4 step 5. Every new employee is placed at step 1 of his/her grade level at the time of employment. Step comes and rises with the years. Also, it is impossible for a staff of any Government Department to have an upward review of salary unless through promotion and or yearly upgrade and rise in the step. Thus, counsel urged the court to believe the evidence of the DWl that the claimant is a casual worker, and disregard the claims by the Claimant that her salary was reviewed and upgraded within three month of her employment without any promotion.

In conclusion, counsel urged the court to hold that the Claimant is not a staff but a casual worker and therefore cannot bring this suit.

The Court’s Decision

Having heard learned counsels to the parties in their final written addresses, let me first comment on some issues raised by the learned counsel to the claimant in his final written address before I proceed to consider the claimant’s claims in this suit.

When DW1 tendered the documents the defendant relied on in its defence of this suit, the claimant’s counsel indicated his objection to the admissibility of the documents but this court granted counsel leave to raise the objection during final address. The documents were marked as Exhibits K, L, M, N and O. The claimant’s counsel practically devoted issue 2 of his final written address in arguing his objection to the admissibility of these exhibits. He urged this court to expunge the exhibits because they are inadmissible for the various reasons advanced by him. I have earlier set out the salient points of his submissions so I will not waste time examining each of the points raised by counsel. But the point must be made that this court is bound to observe the provisions of the Evidence Act but may depart from it where the interest of justice so requires. See Section 12 (2) b) of the NIC Act 2006. The question here is whether Exhibits K, L, M, N and O should be expunged from the record for being inadmissible. I have taken a second look at the exhibits. Exhibit K is a letter from the Head of Service, Imo State. The defendant was not one of the offices it was addressed to. This particular document was not pleaded; it is a photocopy and no foundation was laid nor CTC of it produced; it is also not relevant. Exhibits L, M and N are the employment letter, notification of appointment and confirmation of employment of one Okechukwu Ezeocha Festus. This individual is not a party to this case neither was the employment of such a person an issue in this suit. I find no relevance of the facts of this individual’s employment to this suit. Therefore, Exhibits K, L, M and N have no purpose or relevance to this suit. They are consequently expunged from the record. As for Exhibit O, it was signed by the DW1 and it contains a list of persons who DW1 said were employed in the 2007 employment. It was tendered by DW1 to show that the claimant was not employed in the 2007 employment. One of the issues to be determined in this suit is whether the claimant was an employee of the defendant. Therefore, Exhibit O is relevant to the issue. As rightly observed by the claimant’s counsel, the document is a photocopy and not certified. Pursuant to Section 12 (2) b) of the NIC Act, I shall allow the document to remain as exhibit on record but I will consider the weight to attach to it.

The claimant’s counsel submitted in paragraph 3.1.2 of his written address that the statement of defence did not contain a general traverse and the defendant did not specifically traverse paragraphs 17 to 30 of the statement of facts. Counsel

urged this court to deem that the defendant has admitted the facts pleaded by the claimant and that because of the admission; no further proof is required from the claimant. It must be said first of all that the claimant sought declarations in reliefs (a) and (b). Where a party seeks declaratory relief, the party has to prove his entitlement to the relief. A declaration cannot be made upon an admission. See CHEMIRON INT’L LTD vs. EGBUJUONUMA (2007) All FWLR (Pt.

395) 444 at 454; PAUL NWAZUAH NKWO vs. IBOE (1998) 7 NWLR (Pt. 558) 354. Therefore, the claimant’s counsel’s contention that because the defendant did include a general traverse or traverse some paragraphs of the pleading, no further proof is required from the claimant cannot hold water. The claimant is not relieved of the duty to prove her case. Secondly, the point has to be made that a general traverse or denial, usually given in one of the paragraphs of a statement of defence, either at the beginning or the end of that statement, is not an effective denial of essential or material allegations. See BALOGUN vs. UNITED BANK FOR AFRICA LTD. (1992) 6 NWLR (Pt.247) 326 at 349. As such, whether the defendant included a general traverse or not might be overlooked. What really matters is the specific traverse of particular paragraphs of the claimant’s statement of facts. In paragraph 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the statement of defence, the defendant specifically denied paragraphs 6 to 16 of the statement of facts. I have observed that the claimant’s cause of action or the issues in this case are concentrated in paragraphs 6 to 16 of the statement of facts. These are the paragraphs the defendant has specifically traversed. This court cannot also accept the claimant’s counsel’s argument that paragraphs 17 to 30 of the statement of facts should be deemed admitted because they were not specifically traversed. The whole object of pleadings is to bring the parties to an issue. By implication of the various facts pleaded by the defendant, the facts in paragraphs 17 to 30 of the statement of facts were traversed and issued joined thereon.

Let me now consider the case proper. The claimant testified as the only witness in proof of her case. In her evidence, the claimant stated that she is an employee of the defendant, having been first employed in 2005 as a casual staff in the defendant’s Agric department and was then being paid under the defendant’s Poverty Alleviation Scheme. She said she served as a casual staff for only 18 months before she was employed as a full time staff by an offer of employment dated 24/11/2006 which employment took effect from 1/1/2007 and she was placed in level 4 step 5 with a monthly salary of N7000. She accepted the employment by endorsing the Acceptance form which contained an Agreement and Declaration clauses. Her employment letter and the acceptance form were admitted in evidence as Exhibits B and C respectively. The claimant testified further that three months into the employment, her salary was increased to N10,000 and later to N12,000. But in April 2007, her name was omitted from the payment voucher and upon her complaints, one Dr. Vin Udokwu, Chief of Staff to the state Governor, Achike Udenwa, wrote a letter dated 14/5/2007 to the chairman of the defendant, one Dr. Emma Ogbenta, to restore the claimant’s name on the pay roll. Upon Dr. Emma Ogbenta’s directive, the claimant’s name was restored to the pay voucher and she continued to receive salary. In the 1st quarter of 2008, her name was again removed from the payment voucher. Her efforts to have her name inserted in the payment voucher yielded no result. The claimant stated that her travails with her salary was a result of her refusal to yield to sexual advances made to her by “some senior officials of the defendant” who had lured her to release her original employment letter to them on the pretext that it was needed for a promotion exercise. The officials of the defendant took her employment letter and have refused to release it to her. The claimant also said the officials of the defendant took advantage of her status as a widow to extort her savings but ended up not releasing her salaries. It is the claimant’s further evidence that her employment has not been legally terminated till date and she has also not been queried or accused of any misconduct by the defendant. Having been unsuccessful in her attempts to get the defendant to pay her salaries, she instructed her solicitors to write the letter now in evidence as Exhibit I, dated 31/10/2013, to the defendant to demand payment of her salary but the defendant has refused to comply, hence her claims in this suit.

By an order of this court on 23/2/2015, the defendant was foreclosed from cross examining the claimant. The claimant, as a result, was not crossed examined on her evidence.

The defendant too called only a witness in its defence of the claims. DW1, Obodozie Edwin, said he is the litigation officer of the defendant and he was a senior staff in 2006/2007 when the defendant was recruiting staff. He said the claimant was a casual worker in the defendant and she was not upgraded to full time staff because it is not the offer of appointment alone that qualifies one as a staff of the defendant but the notification of appointment and the confirmation of appointment. DW1 stated that in November 2006, the defendant started a recruitment exercise and offers of appointment was given to some people, which included the claimant, but before notification of employment could be issued to the people offered employment, the defendant discovered the number of persons offered employment were above the number stipulated in the waiver from the State Government. The said employment was consequently cancelled and the offers of employment were withdrawn. DW1 asserted that the claimant was not lured by anybody to return her original letter of offer of employment but she returned it willingly following the public notice to those issued the offers to return the letters and they all complied with the directive. A fresh employment was done on 2nd April 2007 but the claimant was not among those employed this time. DW1 stated that the claimant was not a staff of the defendant and she was never paid any salary. When DW1 was cross examined by the claimant’s counsel, his testimony was similar to what he had said in chief. He said that the claimant was a causal worker between 2005 and 2006 and when she was employed in 2006, he was the Admin Officer I and he was a member of the Junior Staff Management Committee that carried out the recruitment as the recorder. He said also that the power to employ in the Local Government system is vested in the Local Government Service Commission (LGSC) and not the chairman. The LGSC gives directives to the LGs to employ specific number of persons. DW1 explained that in employment process, the defendant cannot exceed the number approved for employment in the waiver granted. Where the waiver is exceeded, the defendant goes back to the drawing board. DW1 further said in cross examination that there was no employment in 2006 as all the people given employment letter had to return them because the defendant had exceeded its waiver. The defendant placed a public notice on its notice board withdrawing the 2006 letters of employment. After that, a fresh employment was done on 2nd April 2007 and “The claimant was one of those whose letters were withdrawn but did not get lucky to get a new letter”. He further said an applicant who accepts an offer of employment becomes a staff only after the issuance of notification of employment and confirmation of employment. Because the claimant was not a staff, she could not have been placed on the defendant’s payroll.

From the forgoing evidence of the parties, the issues that arise for determination are-

  1. Whether the claimant was an employee of the defendant and if the answer is in affirmative, whether the employment still subsists?
  2. Whether the claimant is entitled to the reliefs she sought in this suit?

ISSUE 1.

In relief (a), the claimant sought a declaration that her employment is still valid and subsisting as it has not been terminated by the defendant. In her evidence, the claimant stated that she used to be a casual worker with the defendant until the defendant employed her as a full time staff vide Exhibit B on 24/11/2006 and the employment took effect from 1/1/2007. She accepted the employment by Exhibit C. It is the claimant’s further evidence that her employment has not been legally terminated till date. The defendant, on the other hand, contended that the claimant was a casual staff and was never employed as a permanent staff of the defendant. DW1 stated that the defendant did recruitment in November 2006 and the claimant was issued an employment letter but that employment was later cancelled because the defendant exceeded its waiver. A fresh employment was done in April 2007 but the claimant was not employed. DW1 also stated that even with the Exhibit B employment letter given to the claimant, she cannot be considered a staff of the defendant until she is given a notification of appointment and confirmation of appointment. Since these were not given to the claimant, she was not to be deemed an employee of the defendant at all. The position the defendant appears to have taken by these facts is that the claimant was at no time an employee of the defendant.

The first task in this issue is to find if the claimant was at all or at any time a staff of the defendant. This is the springboard to the resolution of other issues in this case. If the claimant was never employed by the defendant, then a consideration of all other issues in this case will amount to a futile exercise. The case of the claimant is that she was employed by the defendant on 24/1/2006 and she was placed in level 4 step 5 with a monthly salary of N7000. In proof of this allegation, the claimant tendered her employment letter and acceptance form. These are Exhibits B and C on record. Exhibit B, dated 24th November 2006 and addressed to the claimant, contain as follows: “OFFER OF APPOINTMENT

I am directed to inform you that approval has been given for you to be appointed as Agric Field Officer

  1. You are expected to accept the offer on or before 7th December 2006 failing which the offer will lapse. Your appointment as Agricultural Field Officer will take effect from 1st January 2007.
  2. Subject to your acceptance of this offer, you are to complete the attached Gen. Form 75 in duplicate and submit

signed

Nze Uzuchukwu Chibeneme

Director of Administration and General Services

Oru East Local Government.

In paragraph 2 and 3 of the exhibit, the offer of employment was made dependent on its acceptance by the claimant. Exhibit C is an acceptance of the offer of employment by the claimant and addressed to the chairman of the defendant council. It is dated 5th December 2006. In the exhibit, the claimant accepted the offer of employment as Agric Field Officer in Exhibit B. Although the defendant maintains that the claimant is not its staff, it however did not deny the fact that the claimant was given the November 2006 employment letter, that is Exhibit B, and she submitted an acceptance form. There is no dispute therefore that the claimant was issued Exhibit B and she accepted the employment vide Exhibit C. In a contract of employment, once an offer of employment is made by an employer and the employee accepts the offer, whether in writing or by commencement of work, a contract of service has come into being. A contract of employment means any agreement whether oral or in writing, whether express or implied, whereby one person agrees to employ another as a worker and that other person agrees to serve the employer as a worker. See SCC LTD vs. AFROPAK NIG LTD (2008) All FWLR (Pt. 426) 1827 at 1838; IYERE vs. BENDEL FEEDS AND FLOUR MILLS LTD (2009) All FWLR (Pt. 453) 1217 at 1233.(back to top?) In this case, the defendant offered the claimant an employment by Exhibit B and the claimant accepted the employment by Exhibit C. The claimant has also shown that she commenced work and she was paid salary by the defendant. By Exhibits B and C, a contract of employment had taken place between the claimant and the defendant.

The defendant’s contention that until the claimant receives notification of employment and a confirmation letter, she cannot be considered an employee of the defendant cannot, in my view, hold water. In the first place, the defendant has not shown any condition of service or provision of a law to this court which prescribed that employment takes place only when a notification and confirmation of employment is given to the employee. The general rule of contract is that once there is an offer of employment and acceptance, a contract of employment has been entered into. Whether notification or confirmation is subsequently issued, does not affect the validity of the contract which is already in existence. I have also observed that Exhibit B did not subject the employment to the issuance of notification or confirmation. The claimant was only required in Exhibit B to submit an acceptance letter which she did in Exhibit C.

In my view, the claimant was actually employed by the defendant in November 2006 vide Exhibit B. Now, whether that employment is still subsisting is another issue.

The claimant has sought, bedsides a declaration that the employment still subsists, payment of her salaries from April 2008 to January 2014. By these claims, the claimant obviously contends that she was an employee of the defendant up to January 2014 which was the month the claimant filed this suit. Whether the claimant’s employment can be said to still subsist or not depends on whether it has not been terminated or on the nature of the employment. In this case, the claimant did not plead or show that her employment enjoys statutory flavour. The condition of service was also not pleaded. Although the defendant is a creation of the Constitution, the fact that an employer is a creation of statute does not mean that the employments of its servants enjoy statutory flavour. See OPUO vs. NNPC (2002) FWLT (Pt. 84) 11 AT 26. In construing the relationship between the parties in this case, I have taken recourse to the letter of employment, which is Exhibit B. The exhibit did not subject the employment to any law or regulation as the condition of service. In fact, from the evidence of both parties, it is obvious that the relationship between them is that of master and servant. Therefore, Exhibit B has the effect of an employment relationship of master and servant. In such a situation, there is no special procedure to be followed in terminating the employment. In a master and servant employment, termination of the employment can be made orally, in writing or by conduct. See the Supreme Court decision in IFETA vs. SHELL (2006) All FWLR (Pt. 314) 305 at 334.(back to top?) The claimant stated in her evidence that she was being paid salary after her employment but in April 2007 her name was omitted from the payment voucher. Through the effect of the letter by a Dr. Vin Udokwu to the chairman of the defendant, which letter is dated 14/5/2007, that is Exhibit D; her name was restored in the payment voucher of the defendant. She continued to receive salary thereafter until about the “end of the first quarter of the year 2008” when her name was again removed from the payment voucher. She said that she has not been paid any salary since then but she has continued to attend work and her employment has not been terminated till date. DW1, both in his evidence-in-chief and cross examination, told this court that the defendant did a recruitment exercise in November 2006 and the claimant was among those employed but that the employment exercise was later cancelled. DW1 explained that the reason for the cancellation was that the number of persons offered employment in that exercise

was above the number stipulated in the waiver from the State Government. The employment exercise was consequently cancelled and the offers of employment given to the persons so employed were withdrawn. A proper employment was done in April 2007 but this time, the claimant was not employed. To prove the fact that the claimant was not later employed, DW1 tendered Exhibit O in evidence. The exhibit contains a list of employees of the defendant which DW1 said were employed in April 2007 but the claimant’s name is clearly not included in the list.

The facts constituting the evidence of DW1 were pleaded in the defendant’s statement of defence. The defendant did plead the facts that-

i. In November 2006, the defendant offered appointment to some people, who included the claimant, but the defendant discovered that the number of persons offered employment was above the number stipulated in the waiver from the State Government.

ii. The said employment was consequently cancelled and the offers of employment were withdrawn.

iii. There was a public notice to those issued the offers to return the letters and they all complied with the directive.

iv. A fresh employment was done on 2nd April 2007 and the claimant was not among those employed.

v. The claimant’s name was never in the payment voucher of staff of the defendant.

The claimant did not file a reply to the statement of defence. Because of the nature of these averments in the statement of defence, which is not covered in the claimant’s pleading, the claimant, as a matter of general practice, is expected to file a reply to challenge the averments. See EGESIMBA vs. ONUZURUIKE [2002] 15 NWLR (Pt. 791) 466; BAKARE vs. IBRAHIM [1973] 6 S.C 205. Although failure to file a reply does not mean that the claimant has admitted the facts in the defendant’s defence, but non-filing of a reply has left the facts uncontroverted. Therefore, the above facts pleaded by defendant have not been challenged or controverted by the claimant. It is also trite that where a party fails to challenge or controvert a piece of evidence or fact, such evidence or fact would be accepted and upheld by the court. See ASAFA FOODS FACTORY LTD vs. ALRAINE NIG. LTD (2002) FWLR (Pt. 125) 775.(back to top?) In that case, it is not in dispute that the claimant was actually employed in November 2006 but that employment was cancelled because the defendant exceeded the waiver by the State Government and another employment was done in April 2007. The claimant’s employment was the one of November 2006 which has been cancelled and the employment letter was withdrawn. Evidence given by the claimant tends to show that she was actually aware of the withdrawal of the employment letter. In her evidence, the claimant stated that some unnamed senior officials of the defendant lured her to release her original employment letter to them on the pretext that it was needed for a promotion exercise. The said unnamed officials of the defendant took her employment letter and have refused to release it to her. In paragraph 12 of the statement of defence, the defendant denied the claimant’s allegation that she was lured to return her employment letter. DW1 testified that the claimant was not lured by anybody to return her original letter of offer of employment but she returned it willingly following the public notice to those issued the offers to return the letters and they all complied with the directive. In paragraphs 15, 16 and 17 of her statement of facts, the claimant made serious allegations against “some senior officials” of the defendant but in her evidence, the claimant could not name any of such officials of the defendant who allegedly made “immoral passes and advances” to her, “lured and deceived” her to take her employment letter and also “extorted” money from her. Her failure to attach names to the senior officials of the defendant who allegedly committed such grave deeds to her renders her allegation doubtful. It is rather more probable that she submitted her employment letter pursuant to the defendant’s notice to those issued the offers to return the letters. Having found this as a fact, it is clear that the claimant was aware that the November 2006 employment was later cancelled and the letters of employment were withdrawn. The claimant was not employed in the April 2007 employment and she has not shown any evidence to this court that she was later employed in the April 2007 employment.

Furthermore, it is the claimant’s case that her salary was first stopped in April 2007. From the facts, the stoppage of her salary in April 2007 coincided with period her employment was withdrawn and she was not employed in the fresh employment that was done in April 2007 as averred by the defendant. A deduction from the facts is that because her employment was withdrawn, the defendant removed her name from the payment voucher. The claimant has however said that her name was later on restored in the payment voucher and she was paid up to April 2008 when the defendant stopped paying her again. In response, the defendant pleaded that the claimant was not employed in the 2007 employment and her name was not in the payment voucher neither was she entitled to any salary. Now, the defendant’s denial of payment of salary to the claimant put the burden of proof on the claimant to prove that she actually received salary from the defendant after the withdrawal of the employment. In his cross examination, DW1 said staffs of the defendant were paid through bank accounts but it is the casual workers who are paid by cash. Since the claimant maintained that she was a staff of the defendant beyond April 2007 and was paid salary up to April 2008, she was expected to produce her account statement in proof of payment of salary to her. The claimant was unable to supply the required proof. I therefore have no basis to believe the claimant’s claim that she was paid salary beyond April 2007.

From the foregoing, it is clear that in April 2007, the employment in which the claimant was employed was cancelled and her employment letter was withdrawn. About the same time, the defendant stopped payment of salary to the claimant. These are evidence of termination of her employment. The conducts of the defendant whereby it cancelled the claimant’s employment and stopped payment of salary to her, are clear indications that the claimant’s employment had been terminated. See IFETA vs. SHELL (SUPRA) at 334; OPUO vs. NNPC (SUPRA) at 25. I find therefore that the claimant’s employment vide Exhibit B in November 2006 has been terminated. In effect, the claimant’s employment ceased to subsist since April 2007. As a result, issue one is resolved against the claimant.

ISSUE 2.

As it is, the findings of this court in issue one has taken care of all the reliefs sought by the claimant. Since the claimant’s employment has been terminated since April 2007, a declaration that the employment still subsists or for her name to be restored in the defendant’s payment voucher cannot be made. It is settled law that in master and servant relationship, once there is a purported termination of the employment, the court will rarely make an order that it still subsists. This is on the principle that the court cannot force a servant on an unwilling master. See TEXACO NIG PLC vs. KEHINDE (2002) FWLR (Pt. 94) 143 at 164. So also is the claimant’s claim for arrears of salary from April 2008 to January 2014. She was no longer in the defendant’s employment within the period. This court cannot make an order for payment of salaries to her for period she was no longer in the employment. See SPRING BANK vs. BABATUNDE (2012) All FWLR (Pt. 609) 1191 at 1205 where it was held that a servant whose employment has been terminated cannot claim for salary for periods no longer in employment.

In relief (e), the claimant sought the sum of N1,000,000.00 compensation for wrongful termination of her salary. Although not specifically stated in the relief, from the circumstances of the cessation of the claimant’s employment, it appears the claimant meant to claim for wrong termination of employment. It thus means that the claimant claims some compensation for having been wrongfully terminated from her employment and salary earnings. There might be a live issue in this claim if the termination of her employment was improper. I did find as a fact that the claimant’s employment has been terminated by the defendant’s withdrawal of the employment and stoppage of the claimant’s salary. Was this mode of termination of the employment wrongful? In master and servant, there is no particular mode of termination of the employment but generally, adequate notice of termination must be given to the employee. In this case, DW1 said the 2006 employment was cancelled and the offers of employment were withdrawn by a notice to that effect placed on the defendant’s notice board. From this evidence, the defendant merely put up a notice on its notice board directing employees to return their employment letters. This can hardly be considered a notice to the claimant at all. The claimant was therefore not given notice of termination of her employment. This makes the manner of termination of her employment unacceptable and wrongful.

Section 19(d) of the NIC Act 2007, empowers this court to; where it thinks necessary, make any appropriate order including award of compensation or damages in any matter that the court has jurisdiction to hear. This court, being a court of law, is also a court of equity. In fact, while Section 13 of the NIC Act empowers this Court to administer law and equity concurrently, Section 15 of the Act provides that where there is conflict between the rules of equity and the rules of common law with reference to the same matter, the rules of equity shall prevail in this court. In observing equity in this case, one of its principles is that a wrong cannot be allowed to be without a remedy. Therefore, what remedy is the claimant entitled to for the defendant’s infraction on her employment? Pursuant to Section 19 (d) of the NIC Act, this court is inclined to award some compensation to the claimant for the unacceptable manner her employment was terminated. She has claimed for the sum of N1,000,000.00 compensation; but in my assessment, the sum of N200,000.00 should be adequate compensation arising from the manner the defendant brought her employment to an end.

In the final result, the claimant is not entitled to reliefs a, b, c, d and f. These reliefs fail and they are accordingly dismissed. This court grants relief (e) only to the extent that the defendant is ordered to pay the sum of N200,000.00

(Two Hundred Thousand Naira only), as compensation to the claimant.

In addition, I recall that on the 11th day of February 2015, this Court awarded N20,000 cost in favour of the claimant. It is noted that this award of cost has not been complied with. It is therefore ordered that the said cost be paid to the claimant forthwith.

In the summary of this judgment and for the avoidance of doubt, this court hereby orders as follows:

  1. The defendant is hereby ordered to pay to the claimant the sum of Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N200,000.00) as compensation to the claimant.
  2. The defendant is ordered to pay to the Claimant, the outstanding cost of Twenty Thousand Naira (N20,000.00) awarded to the Claimant on the 11th of February, 2015.
  3. The sums ordered in 1 and 2 above are to be paid to the claimant within 30 days from the date of this judgment being 2nd December, 2015. Failure of which it will begin to accrue interest at the rate of 10% per annum until the sums are fully liquidated.

Judgment is entered accordingly.

Hon. Justice O. Y. Anuwe

Judge